During my radio interview with Stu Taylor he asked me what kind of “red flags” I had during my foray into online dating. I was fortunate not to encounter many negative situations (well…maybe one lukewarm stalker). Was I lucky or did I listen to my gut and read between as many lines as possible to avoid any potential issues? I think it was more so the latter. Unfortunately though, I’ve come to know a few not-so-lucky online daters over the past decade:
- Lorenzo arrived at his usual first-date coffee shop only to discover that his new prospect was actually a man;
- Mick entered the apartment of a woman who was not the one in the profile photos and then sat politely for two hours (surrounded by wall-to-wall black garbage bags) watching her six year-old literally bounce off the walls (which he deduced was part and parcel to the two dozen empty Coke cans strewn about);
- Jessica’s hot tub date with her new prospect, only to discover that one of his previous prospects was hiding in his bushes watching them.
I’m sure those folks can look back now and laugh at their experiences; but in the moment, it was undoubtedly unsettling.
One of the most common challenges I’ve heard surrounds trust and truth. The full gamut of trust scenarios runs rampant in the dating world (online or offline). I’m not just referring to people who feel the need to look through their partner’s text messages or emails, or creep their Facebook page; I’m talking about trust as a whole. How do you know what is or isn’t true when you’re getting to know someone new?
Two things helped dismiss any potential question marks I might have had lingering over my forever-husband’s head during the infancy of our relationship. The first was that, in preparation of moving in with him, he asked me to help purge and organize his entire home. He gave me carte blanche access to every nook and cranny in his house. I can tell you though, because of my deep-seated trust issues from previous relationships, his permission to do so did not help stop my hands from shaking each time I went into one of those areas. What did I find? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. To this day though, when I’m dusting our bedroom, a knot still forms in my stomach when I put the receipts from his bedside table into that drawer. Does he deserve that emotion rising up in me? No, no he doesn’t. Unfortunately though, this trust thing has been a bitch for me to shake—even after all these years.
The second event was when my new beau’s ex was tried to sue him for more money. I agreed to prepare the case for his defense, but, in order to prove that her accusations were completely fabricated, I was forced to go through every single piece of paper in his home (they went back further than ten years). What did I find? Nothing. The man paid his bills promptly every month, had no debt (except his mortgage), and there wasn’t any evidence of an equine porn mag subscription. And for those of you who are curious—yes—my rock-solid case wiped the floor with his ex in court.
My friend Heather tried her hand at online dating a few times over the course of a decade, and thought she met her soulmate—they were inseparable for weeks but red flags kept to popping up. To the point where she asked me to call his company to confirm if he truly was the VP Operations of the ad agency where he claimed to be a shareholder. He also claimed to be a millionaire, and promised that she’d never have to work again once they committed themselves to one another. He lived a modest lifestyle, and justified it as not feeling the need to buy things just to keep up with the Joneses. Heather was more gaga about the fact that he had never been married and didn’t have any children; she didn’t give two hoots about the millions (okay… maybe she gave half a hoot).
Heather and I had endless talks about the inconsistencies in his stories. She even came up empty-handed when she went looking through his home office in the hopes of getting a peek at something that could validate his financial claims (this triggered by the umpteenth time he “forgot” his wallet when they went out to dinner). Then one day it all came out when he was fired from his job as foreman at an appliance wholesale warehouse. He wasn’t a millionaire—he was actually in debt and only rented his house. End scene!
It was a tough life lesson for her and the only thing I could do was try to reassure her that she wasn’t alone. We’ve all heard stories of people who were married for decades while their partner lived a double-life of some sort (i.e.: other spouse, mafia, bilking old folks for their pension cheques, etc). It happens. It’s not always the victim’s fault for not clueing in—sometimes people are just really good at lying.
Unfortunately, online dating gets a really bad rap about having a high concentration of weirdos and liars. Understand that those types of folks are out there, even if you meet at a bar, church picnic or shopping mall. Think of it like shopping. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect pair of fuchsia stilettos—you can go to the mall and check every single shoe store, or you can go directly to “Zack’s Super-Hot Sexy Stiletto Store” and save yourself the time and energy.
The learning curve of a new relationship is a big one (especially for those who have scars to heal and “baggage” to carry), so my only advice is that you take a gut check as often as possible and really keep your eyes wide open. If you are cyber dating with the goal of a long-term relationship, you have every right to ask hard questions (please, not on the first or second date—wait until it gets more serious). I feel it is crucial for couples to live a transparent life if they want their relationship to succeed. The only reason someone would take offence at a request for disclosure, is if they have something to hide. Don’t you think?
Think about it.
I’m not saying that online dating is the be-all end-all of finding a mate; but in this day and age, it can prove to be a wonderful and positive resource for that goal.